I would first request to please be unbiased and put everything you know of Anekantvaad aside.
I have seen many people giving different explanations for Anekantavada. But the story of “the elephant” is universal with respect to anekantvad. According to me, the explanation of anekantvada given by some has no relation with the story of the elephant. So I would like to put my viewpoints on Anekantvada here with the help of that story.
There were 6 blind men who had never seen anything. They just visualize thing by the perception they get by touching them. One day an elephant came to their village. All were very excited to know about the elephant. They all touched different parts of the elephant and deduced how the elephant looks like by the perception they got by touching the elephant.
So all the 6 had a different perception of the elephant.
One of them touched the tail of the elephant and thought it is similar to a rope. Similarly who touched the stomach felt it is like a wall. The one who touched the leg thought that the elephant is like a pillar. The one who touched the ear felt it is like a fan. The one who touched the trunk felt it like a snake. The last who touched the tusks felt it like a spear. Then all the 6 started fighting and saying his perspective is right and others are wrong.
So they all visualized the elephant differently. If we combine all the 6 the elephant would look like this.
Then a wise man with the ability to see came to them. He told them that all of them are right “in their perspective”, but none of them is totally correct.
The wise man here is symbolic of “Kevali Bhagwan”. All the 6 blind men are symbolic of people like us. Now, let’s take the example of 2 people only for simplicity. There may be 4 possibilities here:
- Both of them are partially right. As seen in the above example
- One of them is right and one of them is wrong.
- Both of them are wrong.
- One of them is partially right and other is wrong.
Some people can ask if a person is killing beings, how can we apply Anekantvada there?
Answer: The person may be right in his perspective, maybe he is a devotee of Kali and he is taught that Kali wants sacrifice. He is right in his own perspective, though he is wrong.
let’s create sub-cases here too.
A. A brahmin says that Kali is like our mother, but it is not good to sacrifice animals. Here 4 case is applied. The person doing the sacrifice is wrong and the brahmin is partially right. He is right as he said, killing is wrong.
B. A Jain muni says Kali cannot do anything and killing is absolutely wrong. Here case 2 is applied. The person doing the sacrifice is wrong and the Muni is right.
The aim of Anekantvada is that to teach us that others “may” also be right in their perspective. This concept is widely accepted, it is also covered in the syllabus for UPSC, SSC, IAS, NEET etc.
Significance: This concept is used as a tool for non violence. By knowing that others may also be right in their perspective, sheds our “Kashayes” and it will reduce violence.
Practical use by Acharya Hemchandra
Anekāntavāda was effectively used by Ācārya Hemacandra to convert king Kumarapala of Gujarat to Jainism. Certain Brahmins who were jealous of Hemacandras rising popularity with King complained that Hemacandra was a very egoistic person and he did not respect Hindu Gods and refuses to bow to lord Shiva. When called upon to visit Siva temple with the King, Hemacandra readily bowed before the idol of Siva, but by saying:
“I am bowing down only to that god, who has destroyed the passions like attachment (raga) and hatred (dvesa) which are the cause of worldly life, whether he is Brahma, Visnu, or Jina.”
At one stroke he ensured that he remained true to tenets of Jainism, namely, a Jain should bow down only to a passionless and detached God (that is, a Jina) and at the same time managed to please the King. Ultimately, the king became a devoted follower of Hemacandra a great champion of Jainism
Criticism and questions are welcomed.